This morning the four of us (Ryan, Gina, Tom and myself) set out early for our day with elephants. We arrived at the office for Thom’s Elephant Camp around 8:30 and rode in a tuk tuk about 20 minutes down the road to where the elephants are kept. We said good morning to the elephants and were taken a little bit further down the road where we “boarded” a bamboo raft for an hour long drift down the river. Encountering some birds, a lot of dust, and a few tractors (clearly helping the river’s path formation), we ended our bamboo ride and headed back towards the elephant camp. We were introduced to our elephants, (Tom and mine’s named Ott) and attempted the clumsy climb up to her back as she offered us her foot as a lift. Once we made it up, I was told by Ott’s mahout (her owner and trainer) to move forward and sit on her neck. As we were riding bareback, her coarse hair was very itchy underneath us for the next hour of our clumsy ride. Feeling like we could fall off at any moment, I had my feet hooked underneath Ott’s ears, as she fluttered them back in forth in a display of happiness. As we neared the lake, we could tell the elephants were excited to go for a dip, filling their trunks and splashing us as we entered the water. All of a sudden the mahouts started shouting commands and before we know it, Ott is shaking her head frantically, sending Tom and I down in the water, laughing hysterically. Looking over, we see Ryan and Gina being thrown off their elephant as well, all of us stumbling around, blowing water out of our noses. Out mahouts tell us to climb on again, and as soon as we’re settled are thrown off again into the water. Both elephants are splashing us and themselves, refreshing us all from the midday heat. We took photos and played in the water with the elephants for another 20 minutes or so. They were reluctant to leave the cool water, but they were eager to get back for a snack. Another fifteen minute ride back to the camp and we dismounted our elephants, saying goodbye. While they snacked on bananas and tree branches, we ended the morning with some delicious chicken fried rice and a few ice cold Chang beers.
(make sure to check out the video at the bottom!)